No Blaise: Ace

February 3rd, 2016

Little did I know when I was Ace Ventura for Halloween some two years ago that I would become West Town’s Pet Detective. As an extreme dog mom, looking out for the well being of the animals in my neighborhood seems like an appropriate hobby.

A month or so ago I’m walking Belle and a dog I was watching, Flanders. Out of nowhere two raggedy looking dogs come running up to us. Flanders and Belle, as you’d expect, went bazerk. Barking, jumping, the whole routine. Needless to say, the raggedy dogs ran away from us. I was all, “Guys! We could’ve helped them!” and then quickly walked back home to give them a further lecture in private.

Once I’d fed them, I grabbed some dog treats and went looking for the raggedy dogs.

*Queue crazy dog lady sequence*

I found them a few blocks away eating what was definitely garbage in front of what looked like a haunted house. I slowly approached, dog treats extended, hoping to meet on some common ground. Once I got what they deemed too close, they slipped into the gate of this house and ran towards the backyard. I then noticed there were more dogs in the backyard of the haunted house.

This was definitely a case for No Blaise: West Town Pet Detective.

I did was any good detective would do: Called 311 and told them what was going down. They said they’d send animal control as soon as they could. As all good over zealous neighborhood members do, I left my name and number in case they had any updates.

Still waiting on that.

Yesterday, my pet detective skills were called into action again.

I had a break between work and class, so I went home to walk Belle.

As soon as we get outside two dogs about her size come running towards us. This was either going to go really well or really badly. Luckily, Belle remained calm and greeted the dogs nicely. Then I remembered the horrible dog flu going around and Belle’s susceptibility to catch any sickness in a five mile radius, I walked her away from the dogs. “Sorry guys, not today.”

Being who I am, I wondered where the F did these dogs come from? They had collars but not tags, and some weird fabric around their necks that looked like it was meant to be a bandanna. The further we walked up the street, the more I realized that there was no one else on the street who these dogs could belong to.

I asked a man sitting on his porch, who I often see walking his cat, if the dogs were his. They were not.

What’s a Pet Detective to do?

We get to the end of the block, cross the street, and start heading towards home when these two little doggies come running up again. Belle again is all, “Hey, what’s  up, nice to see you again, kind of freaked out but mostly ok with this..” and I then decide to try and lure the dogs to follow us so I can put them in my side yard and then call 311 and tell them what’s going on.

In my mind, this act turns into my creating the worlds most loving and humane dog shelter.

Unfortunately, the dogs do not follow me and my dreams are crushed.

The next step in the case of the two little doggies is my calling 311 again. I tell the woman what’s going on, and leave my information again. This time she says she signed me up for text updates. I considered this my promotion to Sergeant.

Until next time, stray dogs of West Town….

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Chris Lamberti: Undercover Baseball Writer

February 3rd, 2016

This is my first baseball write-up in a while.

I’ve been deep undercover in Cuba, posing as a great-field, no-hit shortstop willing to act as a defector to the United States, so I could smuggle back ballpark groundskeeping secrets—field drainage diagrams, the recipe for diamond dry, how to mow those symmetrical designs in the outfield, etc.

I wanted to uncover the underground world of espionage in baseball, the last vestige of clandestine Cold War operations. Or so I imagined.

But the Cubans thought I was “loco,” so I spent most of my $10 a day stipend from the Third City on rum benders with Cuban literati, hopeless romantics who called for the revolution to return, and abolishing the designated hitter.

Benny Jay had Milo track me down. He found me at a seedy bar at the outskirts of Havana.

Milo said the Third City would no longer bankroll my story.

I complained that there was no room for real investigative journalism in today’s blogosphere.

Milo responded that I could come home willingly, or he’d stuff me in his suitcase and throw me in the cargo hold of an illegal fishing trawler, whose captain he’d greased to bring him to the island.

I had a lot of time to think on the way back to the states, as we had to ditch the boat to avoid capture by the U.S. Coast Guard, and paddle our way back in an inflatable dinghy.

I wondered whether the adventurous life of a baseball writer was really for me. I could give it all up. Spend more time with my family. Open up a little baseball memorabilia shop. I figured my Frank Thomas autographed glossy would fetch a decent price. The Magglio Ordonez signed 8×10 a little less, but enough to pay the electric bill.

But then I thought about the thousands of Third City readers. Where else would they get their off-beat, intermittently published blog posts about baseball, and sometimes other stuff?

Besides, if I were to quit, then they’d win.

The Benny Jays of the world, who judge people, not by the content of their character, but by their ability to produce web content. They’d win.

Other baseball bloggers, who say that bits about superheroes and slimy blog editors don’t count as baseball writing. They’d win.

hunterthompsonyoungChris–hard at work for TTC!

 

And those who say that blogging has to be topical, that it always has to make sense, and that there needs to be a point. They’d win.

I was petty fired up. So when we beached our dinghy in the Florida Keys, I stepped out and walked all the way to Chicago, and straight up to Benny Jay’s office.

He was on the phone with his bookie, trying to get a bet in before the last race at Santa Anita.

But I didn’t care. I laid it all out for him right then.

I admitted that, yah, my journalistic escapades didn’t necessarily please the blog’s sleazy advertisers.

And I could understand if he was put off that I was a loner, a Sox fan in a Cubs world.

But I had integrity dammit, and unlike a batter up with a man on third and less than two outs, it wasn’t something I was willing to sacrifice.

“Sure, kid, whatever,” Benny said, without looking up from his racing form, “just make sure you get me 500 words every week from now on, ok?”

And then Benny barked into the receiver, “Give me Venezuelan Prince at 22 to 1.”

Venezuela. I’d heard there was a southpaw down there who threw 100 mile-an-hour heat, but lived in a monastery having sworn off all material possessions.

What a story.

If not, there was plenty of rum in Venezuela.

 

Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was Blogging-enhancing Drugs…

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Jim Siergey: No Zombies

January 29th, 2016

It hasn’t been by design but I recently watched several movies in a row that were about death.

The first one was Still Life, a 2015 British film set in London. The main character is John May. He works for the government out of a tiny basement office where he keeps everything in pristine order. His job is finding family or friends of people who have died alone.

His success rate is very low.

He has great empathy for these folks. He looks through their belongings, their letters, pictures and records, to try and get a feel for what type of person he or she was. He arranges funerals where he is the only attendee besides the pastor, rabbi or whatever religious leader he feels is apt. He even chooses music for the services.

He himself lives alone, in a huge apartment complex, in a very orderly apartment where he keeps a large photo album filled with photos, ID cards, drivers licenses and assorted memorabilia of the souls who have passed away in solitude.

On the same day that he is told his job is being eliminated he has one last case to investigate, a body that was found weeks after expiration in the same complex where he resided and in an apartment directly across the courtyard from his.

Being a thorough fellow, he eventually finds a few people who knew the deceased many years earlier, an old friend from whom he had a falling out, an estranged ex-wife and the long lost adult daughter that last saw him when she was a child. Despite his cajoling, none are interested in attending a service.

Up until this point, this has been a well done but very dry, slow-moving film with a heavy air of hopelessness about it.

Finally, well over an hour after it began, it seemed like John May may have the beginnings of a possible relationship blooming with the long lost daughter. His constant glum face now bore a bit of happiness upon it.

I, the viewer was now also feeling a bit happy since it had been a rather morose cinematic trip so far.

John arranges to meet with the long lost daughter after the funeral service he has arranged but—SPOILER ALERT! — on the way there he is hit by a bus and dies. Jesus! I thought to myself, what a bleak film!

Ironically, his body is driven to a grave site right past the burial service of the long lost daughter’s father where all of the people with whom John May spoke decided to appear. John had finally gotten himself a success!

Sadly, the daughter looks about searchingly during the service but pays no attention to the hearse carrying John May that drives past. John is buried alone and the camera slowly pulls back, making his grave even more diminished in size.

Man, talk about your unhappy endings, eh?

death-at-a-funeral-posterDeath at a Funeral is hilarious in any language…

 

Then, slowly dissolving on are all the people who died alone that John May took care to see were buried properly (we recognize them from the photo album he flips through) as they walk into the scene to stand at his grave and pay their respects. Hundreds of them appear. They keep arriving as the credits roll.

Thus, it ended rather sweetly in a macabre way.

The next night I watched Dead Man, a favorite movie of mine that I’ve seen many times. A simple synopsis is this: Johnny Depp gets shot early in the film and spends the rest of it dying .

There’s much more to it than that, of course. Depp plays a character named William Blake, an accountant who travels by train from Cleveland to the Wild West to claim a job for which he mistakenly thinks he’s been hired.

Things don’t work out and in a bedroom shootout, he kills the son of a powerful man and, wounded himself, steals a pony to make his escape and is found passed out in the middle of the woods by an outcast Indian named Nobody who thinks that Depp is THE William Blake, the English poet and artist, whose body is searching for a return to the spirit world.

And that’s just the gist of it. It’s directed by Jim Jarmusch in a series of blackout scenes with beautiful cinematography by Robby Muller who makes the movie look like it was shot by Ansel Adams. The musical score is performed by Neil Young and the cast is both distinguished and odd.

Four thumbs up!

The third film in this death trilogy was a 2010 British movie entitled Death at a Funeral. Despite its dark title, it is a comedy.

It begins with a casket containing the wrong body and continues onward and upward and downward and every which way with tear-producing hilarity. It is a damn funny film with a capital F.

And F rhymes with Death, sort of, which brings this morbid post to a conclusion. May it rest in peace.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Backwards Man

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Jim Siergey: Backwards Man

January 27th, 2016

From what I can tell
it ain’t no crime
for a person to decide
to live back in time…

I’m in a smokin’ jacket
with a big red fez
and tight on my nose

is my gold pince nez
I ring for the butler

and I call for the maid
to get my mustache wax

and my hair pomade
I wear a three piece suit

that’s complete with spats
I never go outside

without my silk top hat
Cuz the kinda man I am
is a Backwards Man

I got no computer
and I sure don’t text
and I do not worry
’bout what’s comin’ next

I don’t do Starbucks
I don’t drink lattes

Don’t do no yoga
or pilates

I get me a phosphate
from the five and dime,
the afternoon edition
and a street shoe shine

I’m a Backwards Man,
doin’ the best I can
I don’t dig craft beers
or seek WiFi

I sip martinis
by my sleek HiFi
The latest trends
do not interest me

I’m a big oddball
and just a wee bit twee
I got a Magnavox
radio at home

and in my bedroom,
there’s a Princess phone

Yes, I’m a Backwards Man
That’s what I am
I don’t LOL
and I won’t high-five

I let this Modern World
just pass me by
I live in the past
it’s what I choose to do

The here and now
is for folks like you

I don’t need to rush
I got no place to go

When you’re a Backwards Man
you take it slow

In this Brave New World
I do the best I can
Livin’ my life
as a Backwards Man…

 

Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Saddeningly Last Summer…

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Jim Siergey: Saddeningly Last Summer

January 23rd, 2016

Quite often, when people are introduced to my wife they immediately offer condolences. They also say things like, “You must be a saint.” and “How do you manage it?” They then look over at me with either a look of disparagement or one of pity.

I could never understand why people said those things or the frequency in which they did until, via a convoluted pathway, a particular memory emerged that raised, ever so slightly, the Venetian blinds covering my eyeballs.

One day last summer I was hanging out on my front porch enjoying the pleasant weather as I waited for my wife to return from the grocery store so I could assist in the unloading of the purchased wares.

It was the least I could do. The very least, one could say.

I saw her pull the car up in front of the house so I descended the steps and began making my way to the vehicle. At the same time, a fellow was walking down the sidewalk in my direction. He stopped, looked at me and then called out both my first and last name.

This heralding of my moniker stopped me in my tracks. I spent a few seconds studying the name-dropper’s face before recognition came through and I, in turn, called out his first and last name.

We hadn’t seen each another in decades.

rogermoorethesaint

Not this saint…

 

We stood and spoke, playing quick-time catch-up with our lives over the past twenty five years. As we chatted, I couldn’t help but notice my wife going back and forth from the car to the house carrying bags of groceries.

This put me in a quandary.

I knew I should be helping her with the toting of provisions but I also didn’t want to be rude and break off the dialogue I had going with my long-time-no-see friend. Ultimately, my passive aggressive decision making allowed societal politeness to win out over chivalry.

Besides, my wife was no weakling.

At about her third trip past us I stopped her and made introductions.

“Jeff, this is my wife. Cindy, this is Jeff.”

As they exchanged pleasant hellos I noticed that Cindy held a gallon of milk in one hand and a gallon of orange juice in the other. The next thing I knew, I had cast a sidelong look at Jeff, cocked my head at Cindy with her handfuls of plastic-encased liquid refreshments and said “Nice jugs, eh?”

Jeff reacted by nearly duplicating the old comic strip act of leaping backwards out of frame with his feet facing skyward. He actually did leap backwards, from the sidewalk to the parkway grass, and exclaim “You never stop, do you?”

Cindy merely rolled her eyes and sighed before turning away to climb the porch steps.

Just like a saint would.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Farewell Tour

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Jim Siergey: Farewell Tour

January 20th, 2016

Wow, 2016 is only a few weeks old and already the number of musicians who have died could fill the seats in a small club. I hope the next few weeks don’t bring that total to filling all the seats (not the holes) in Albert Hall.

To make matters worse, or more personal, is that these have all been musicians who became popular in the ‘60s and early ‘70s….MY g-g-g-generation!

David Bowie was the big Big Name to leave this mortal coil but he was soon followed by Glenn Frey of the ‘70s powerhouse group, the Eagles. Dale Griffin, the drummer for Mott the Hoople, drummed his final solo as well.

I had a Mott the Hoople album. I bought it mainly for the M.C. Escher art on the cover but I enjoyed its musical contents as well. I remember that one of the tunes was an interesting cover of the Sonny Bono-penned song “Laugh at Me”.

Dallas Taylor, the drummer with Crosby, Stills and Nash and Young also crashed his final cymbal. Another recent musician death was Gary Loizzo, a name that was unfamiliar to me but not his voice. He was the singer for American Breed, a band that had a big hit with “Bend Me, Shape Me” in 1967.

jimsiergeymottthehopple

I loved the Escher art…

 

I always thought it was a rather pathetic song. The lyrics were “Bend me, shape me, anyway you want me/as long as you love me, it’s all right…” But, to quote the kids on American Bandstand, “It had a nice beat and it was easy to dance to”. Even I, a notable non-dancer, danced to it when I saw American Breed play at The Blue Village in Westmont, Illinois back in ’67.

The night was eventful not only because of my shing-a-linging on the dance floor but also because it was my first exposure to black light. For the unhip, black light was all the rage in the late ‘60s. They were ultra-violet lights that made whites shine in an unearthly bright glow, especially teeth.

A’course now, people pay big money to get their teeth to shine that bright. Ultra-violet bright.

While I’m on the subject, I may as well mention another first that happened that year. I was at The Cellar, another club for the youngsters (please excuse my poorly-executed Ed Sullivan impersonation) in Arlington Heights where I saw a band called The Human Beinz. They had a hit song called “Nobody But Me”.

Anyway, that was my first exposure to strobe lights, which also became all the rage in the late ‘60s.

In fact, a friend of mine constructed his own strobe light out of a coffee can and other materials. We would often sit in his two room apartment listening to music while grooving on the strobe.

But enough about me. Getting back to the dying musicians of 2016, I’m sure I’ve missed a few and who knows how many more will meet their coda by the time this gets posted, but the point is too many of ‘em are going too soon and too quickly.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter to them any more but who knows what matters to the dead? They may be comforted by the fact that they will always be remembered in some way, shape or form. A snippet of a lyric, a memory of a melody will always invade one’s subconscious without warning.

As Warren Zevon, another great artist who left us way too early, wrote on his final album:

“Sometimes when you’re doin’ simple things around the house
Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for a while…”

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Peanut Butter & Banter…

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Jim Siergey: Peanut Butter & Banter

January 14th, 2016

I came late to peanut butter.

I did not eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until I was in my mid-twenties.

If I hadn’t been father of two small children, who knows when or if I would ever have tasted that mellow, goopy goodness?

When I was a child I tasted peanut butter only once and even then it was just barely. Onto the corner of a slice of Wonder Bread I dabbed a glob of Peter Pan Peanut Butter. That schmear of ochre-colored substance on the mushy white bread did not look all that appetizing and perhaps this visualization affected my taste buds because I took one bite and I hated it. It was the most awful thing I had ever tasted.

I never went near the stuff again.

Until, that is, I found myself with two hungry toddlers and not much of anything in the joint to eat. On the counter in our kitchen was a toaster and next to it was a partial loaf of hearty grained wheat bread. Using my inbred male hunting skills, I tracked down and brought out a jar of jam from the fridge and one of peanut butter from the pantry.

The fixin’s were afoot.

peanutbutterdogEverybody loves peanut butter!

 

I toasted some bread, added the peanut butter and jam to it and served it to the whining brats, er…sweet angels…and they loved it. Being hungry myself, I tried a bite and, to my surprise, I loved it too. I’ve been eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ever since…but only on toast.

This memory crept back to me as I was preparing to slather some peanut butter on a few graham crackers for a little nosh. To be exact, I began recounting the chronology of events concerning my peanut butter history when I realized that I was filling my kitchen knife blade with Creamy-Style peanut butter.

I had never dealt with creamy peanut butter before.

I have always been a Crunchy or even Extra-Crunchy guy. It’s not a peanut butter conspiracy (a little psychedelic reference for those who get it), it’s just that my initial positive peanut butter experience was with the crunchy style. When it comes to peanut butter styles, there’s a stick-to-it-tiveness about me. (Go ahead, groan)

This creamy style peanut butter was a whole new undertaking. The first thing I noticed was how easily one can scoop creamy peanut butter out of the jar as opposed to the crunchy kind. It’s so light that one can effortlessly fill a kitchen knife blade with a heaping mound of the stuff and then spread it upon not one, but two graham crackers, swirling it about as if one was frosting a cake.

Graham crackers heavily coated with creamy peanut butter turned out to be a tasty repast. I did sort of miss the extraness of coarse, crunchy peanuts and therefore toyed with the idea of topping my creamy peanut butter topped grahams with some mini-chocolate chip morsels but that would have been gilding the lily, don’t you think?

A’course, I used to be a gilder…

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Spitune

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